Today, I’m happy to post an interview with Nischala Murthy Kaushik, blogger extraordinaire whose posts have been tweeted by Hollywood celebs like Alyssa Milano and shared by Guy Kawasaki (former chief evangelist of Apple). Nischala has written for internationally popular blogs such as Problogger, has been listed among ‘Indian women to follow on Twitter‘, and is counted among the most popular Indian bloggers.
In this latest installment of the How They Did It series on this blog (a series that chronicles the journey of successful writers from newbies to writing stars, and where the writer offers tried-and-tested tips), Nischala offers an insight into what went into making her blog a success, and how newbie bloggers can hope to get more readers.
By when did the blog pick up big readership? Any memories you remember from those early days of your blogging success.
Firstly, thank you for featuring me on your blog. I think “How they did it” is a great initiative that you’ve started, and am sure that it will help a lot of aspiring / newbie and even veteran writers / bloggers. After all, we all learn from each other’s stories, right?
Coming to my blog, I think it was after 1-2 years of blogging on my own blogs, and a lot of guest posts in many global forums. Interestingly for me, the initial thrust came from global readership because my guest posts were published in forums like Problogger, ChangeBlog, etc. It was only much later that I became active in the Indian blog-o-sphere.
There are so many memorable moments mostly because they were completely unexpected and took me by surprise, and of course, made me happy. Top among them are:
Alyssa Milano (Yes! The American actress, producer and singer) shared my post on 12 Most Wonderful moments in the first year of Motherhood. This was in 2011, and about a year after I started blogging. The post went viral in a few minutes after she tweeted it. It was like with every blink of my eye the numbers just shot up 🙂 I almost felt like a mini-celebrity!
My guest posts being accepted by Problogger. For those who don’t know, Problogger was started by Darren Rowse who was among the first bloggers globally to make money through his blog. It is a dream for bloggers around the world to get published here, and it can take months to fit in to their blogging schedule. It is one of those indications that “You have arrived as a blogger” 🙂
There have been many comments and shares on my posts from many globally respected leaders, CXO’s and influential / popular individuals / communities from corporate / business, politics, education, social media, marketing, movies, etc. For example, my posts were shared by the likes of Guy Kawasaki (former chief evangelist of Apple; co-founder of Alltop.com and currently Chief Evangelist at Canva), Angela Maiers (a globally respected educator and TED Speaker), etc. Also, my posts have been quoted in a number of forums.
When did you first start the blog…what was your main motivation in starting it?
In 2010, I thought to myself Maybe I should create a blog of my own too. But I had so many questions “What will I write about? Who will read them? Will anyone comment?” And most importantly, I did not know how / how much I will be able to blog. Anyway, I started a blog and published my first blog post as a private post. I felt I was not ready to share it with the world. It’s like when you start anything new, you have more questions than answers and are simply not sure about how things will work out. But over time, I began posting regularly. A few months later, I shared my posts with a few trusted friends and family and received positive and encouraging feedback. So one fine day in 2010, I decided to let my blogs go public and since then, there has been no looking back. In terms of motivation, there are a number of reasons:
- One, I wanted an “online space” as a canvas for my words. Words which stem from dreams, thoughts, observations, analysis, learning’s, conversations, view-points, outlook, views, emotions, perspectives, achievements, mistakes, failures, lessons learnt, comprehensions, experiences and conclusions.
- Two, the initial phases of motherhood are taxing physically, emotionally enriching / draining at the same time and lonely (socially) since you hardly have any time for social interactions. In that phase, I needed something intellectual stimulating and some social connections to keep me going through the long dark nights from the confines of my home and I found that in the world of blogs.
- Three, When I became a mother, I used to ponder and introspect a lot on “deeper existential questions” on life and legacy. I’ve always believed words and writing can be a significant part of anyone’s personal legacy, and I hope mine will 🙂 In fact two of my most popular posts are “What is your personal legacy?” and “What is your social media legacy?”. Be sure to read it 🙂
- Lastly, To give back. I believe that many times it is “words” that make all the difference in life. So if my writings can make a positive difference in someone’s life – either by enabling them to learn, making them think, help them through a rough phase of life or just bringing some sunshine in their life, I’m good.
Incidentally, my tryst with blogging started at about the same time as my journey as a mother and so both are special to me.
My blogs include:
- VERVE : The Quintessence of my Life – my personal blog and covers a broad range of topics around Life, Creativity, Parenting, Relationships, Human Experiences, Emotions, Lessons and Wisdom of life.
- Nischala’s Space, Thoughts and Expressions – my professional blog in which I write about topics of professional interest like Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Innovation and Strategy.
- Worth a Read – – a compilation of interesting, touching, humorous write-ups that I come across — via mail, on the net or a random read… And believe it’s worth saving and worth reading again.
In the beginning, how often did you post, and later too, when it got popular?
Initially, I used to publish when I’d finish writing a post. So there would be phases when there would be five posts published on my blog in one day and many days when there would be no activity on my blogs.
It took a while to understand the my own process / method of blogging. Some days, I have 30 blog post ideas and some days I can write 10K words and on some days I’ve even written up to 20 blog posts! I’d also done a post on this — The Biorythmic cycles of a blogger.
I think it takes a while to find the rhythm in the madness. Today, I am more structured and have a well-planned editorial calendar. I run 3 active blogs and target 1 post per week on each of the blogs. I also do at least 3 guest posts per month. So in one month, I have around 10-15 posts which go live :). I write almost every single day and have done it regularly for the past 4 years. I don’t publish everyday though!
According to you, what helped make the blog a success?
- Choice of blog topics that have a large appeal: So I have a 10 year old girl who reads my blogs, and a 70 year old grandpa who says he enjoys my blogs.
- Simple words, language and articulation: which make my writings unique and easy to read / comprehend, I’m told.
- Posting regularly: This really comes from the love of writing, focus, planning and self-discipline.
- Guest posts.
- Focused blog marketing and promotion in online / social channels and communities.
- Social networks and advocates who share my content generously.
One of the most challenging things for a new blogger is getting readers and comments. What can newbie bloggers do to get more readers?
I think that is the wrong question to ask or start with. The more important question is “Why will anyone read your blog on Day 1? Or Day 2 or .. Day N” and that should drive your blogging efforts! And more specifically how many blogs have you read and how many comments have you left on other blogs?”.
In specific, here are the DO’s that have worked for me:
- Have a specific niche for 70 – 80% of your posts
- Have an authentic voice. Be real
- Get to know your reader – Who is he / she? What do they want to read about?
- Continuously provide compelling content
- Religiously promote the blogs across social media
Here are the DONT’s
- Pass off someone else’s content as your own. It has happened to me so many times, and trust me as a blogger, I DO NOT appreciate it.
- Talk only about yourself and your personal life. No one wants to read beyond a point unless it is relevant or you are a celebrity already
- Share negative / abusive / sensitive / incorrect information / opinions
Building blog traffic takes time (if you are not already a real-life celebrity). There is no overnight glory and success in blogging. One step at a time. Also the “Law of Karma” works well in blogs. I call it the “Blogging karma” – You get what you give – in thoughts, words, comments and shares 🙂
If you are a newbie “individual” blogger, I personally think that you’re starting late, so now you have to differentiate yourself to even find a place in the blogging world.
Did your blog help you professionally? If so, how?
- More visibility at the workplace – I have a second identity now as a blogger 🙂
- More visibility in the industry (IT) / across specific functional areas like Marketing, Social Media, Leadership, HR, etc.
- CXO level connects – I have many CXO’s who read / comment / share my blogs. They know me on a first name basis
- Professional networking – I’ve build so many wonderful online connections with people who inspire, assist and enable. Since they know me already, it is easy to connect and converse on (m)any issues
- Re-connect with academia – As you know, I’m an IIMB alumni and a lot of my IIMB professors also read my blogs and share in their networks.
I know so many people and so many people know me because of my blogs 🙂
What, according to you, is the importance/role of offline networking (attending blog meets, lit events etc.) in growing a blog? Are there any examples of your own blog where offline networking helped?
I don’t know since I’ve never attended any blogging event till date. From what I’ve read / seen, it can boost your readership and strengthen the power of networks and relationships. So people share / like / comment / recommend you – It is like a peer-to-peer ecosystem.
Your thoughts on monetizing a blog through google adwords etc.?
No comments since I’ve not done it
What role, according to you, does SEO play in making a blog successful?
It plays a significant role. But to be honest, I don’t do any SEO for my personal blogs. I know bloggers for whom SEO made all the difference. To each his / her own.
Would be great if you could share details or examples with links showing just how successful the blog is…or stats, like at its peak, how many comments per post, views per day etc.
This number game is bad you know – in the corporate context, in Bollywood, in cricket, in politics or whatever! But I know that the bottom-line is data is accounted and hence valued more.
To give you an insight, one of my most popular posts “33 Life Lessons No School really taught me” was shared 10K+ times in social media in about 3 days that it went live.
Personally, I’ve stopped tracking all this. However, I like to observe overall trends periodically because they give you insights into what your readers want to read. Like another most popular post on my blog has been around extra-marital affairs. I was surprised, but looks like it is an issue which people are keen to read about!
What’s your current professional status…
@ Status 1: Head of Marketing and Thought Leadership for a specialized theme in one of India’s largest IT service provider
@ Status 2: Mother, Wife, Daughter (in-law), Sister (in-law), Aunt…. and everything that it entails 🙂
@ Status 3: In between the two, I blog / write 🙂
For more tips on blogging, visit this post by Nischala!
What do you think of Nischala’s advice? Tried any of these tips for your own blog? What’s been your blogging experience?